Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The creative process

I was very tempted to write that as The Creative Process, give it a grand title, but I'm not sure that the process is so special that it deserves a grand title. Creativity is an everyday thing in human beings, from finding a novel solution using basic items like a hammer and nail to throwing together a couple of ingredients and coming up with a tasty and healthy meal.

I'm writing a novel. It's a story that was inspired by another book I worked on for another writer, which I partly translated from Dutch into English, and partly proofread/edited. It's also somewhat influenced by my one trip to Sicily, various other books I've read and films I've seen, and my own experiences in research, journalism and art. And of course all the wonderful creative people I know. But I can't do what many writers seem to be able to do - and maybe this is because I am new to writing something so long and so complicated - but I can't just sit and write it all out. I hit a wall last week, and couldn't figure out how to get past it for a few days. So I had to let it sit on the backburner, as it were.

The same has happened to me in painting - I could see that something wasn't right with a composition or whatever, but what? It would drive me NUTS ... so I would have to just go away from it for a few minutes, and then walk back to it. Often I'd see it then, but there were times when I didn't see it for ages. I'm talking weeks, even months, here. If you have an issue with a technical aspect of a piece, you can often go online and find several solutions through Google. But sometimes I can't see where the issue is ... and it might be a matter of a line in the wrong place. And then it's when you step right back, and get a new perspective, then you see it.

It helps me to go off and do something different for a while. Another artist I know, when confronted with a wall or a composition that won't sit right, she gets up and does some housework, sweeping and tidying and sorting things out, and focuses on that, while her subconscious mulls over the image she's making. Me, I tidy too, or walk, or go out and weed my garden. I've heard it said that intense physical activity that makes you work up a sweat cures all kinds of mental and emotional issues - and I can recommend an hour of chopping wood with an axe for any angst-ridden teenager, although many would question the wisdom of leaving a young person alone with an axe, but however - including mild depression. All I know is, in my experience, the physical activity can release a blockage, and then there's the double satisfaction of achieving something practical in the process, like clearing weeds away from the vegetable patch, sweeping up dead leaves, digging compost and manure into a raised bed. Triple score: unblock the mind, get a particular job done, and get a rush of endorphins in the process.

Purple ink drawings: Various studies of a female nude. 

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